Four Olympic and World champion gymnasts formally asked Congress on Wednesday to dissolve the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s board of directors, saying the organization ignored sexual abuse for decades and failed to take the necessary steps to eradicate a culture of abuse within American Olympic sports.
In a letter to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Sen. Jerry Moran, (R-Kansas), Olympic champions Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman and World champion Maggie Nichols called on Congress to pass a joint resolution on November 1 to dissolve the USOPC board under the landmark Empowering Olympians and Paralympians and Amateur Athlete Act of 2020.
Blumenthal and Moran were co-authors of the legislation which places greater legal liability on the USOPC and the national governing bodies under its umbrella for sexual abuses by coaches, officials and employees, and provides Congress with mechanisms to dissolve the USOPC’s board of directors and decertify NGBs.
“We believe it is time for Congress to exercise its authority over the organization it created by replacing the entire USOPC board with leadership willing and able to do what should have been done long ago: Responsibly investigate the systemic problem of sexual abuse within Olympic organizations — including the USOPC — and all efforts to conceal it,” the four women, all survivors of former USOPC and USA Gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse, wrote in the letter to Blumenthal and Moran.
The letter comes in anticipation of action in the Senate to place the USOPC board under greater scrutiny and even move to dissolve the board entirely. The letter also follows gripping testimony by the four women last month before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“In sacrificing my childhood for the chance to compete for the United States, I am haunted by the fact that even after I reported my abuse, so many women and girls had to suffer at the hands of Larry Nassar,” Nichols testified during the hearing that focused on the FBI’s handling and cover-up of multiple allegations that Nassar for years sexually abused U.S. Olympic and national team gymnasts under the guise of medical treatment.
USOPC was also heavily criticized by both the athletes and senate members during the hearing.
Nichols in June 2015 became the first U.S. national team member to report allegations of abuse against Nassar to USA Gymnastics. Top USOPC officials including then CEO Scott Blackmun were made aware of the allegations shortly thereafter but did not take action. The USOPC board did not call for an investigation of the Nassar matter until February 2018.
“Since being aware of Nassar’s abuse, the USOPC’s top priority has been to hide culpability and avoid accountability,” the women wrote in the letter.
The USOPC did not respond to a request for comment.
“We believe the Board’s past actions demonstrate an unwillingness to confront the endemic problems with abuse that athletes like us have faced and a continued refusal to pursue true and necessary reform of the broken Olympic system,” the letter said.
Source:: Los Angeles Daily News
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